Wednesday, October 5, 2011

11 Nostalgic Activities Today's Kids Will Never Enjoy

Blowing in Nintendo games, the horrible sound of a dial-up modem. Yeah, things sucked. But that's why they were awesome. And kids today will never know it. From Funny Or Die, by Dan Abramson.


Kids will never know the satisfaction of putting a cassette in your stereo and waiting for your favorite song to come on, fingers anxiously waiting on the record button. A message to today's children: mixes weren't always made by iTunes based on MATH. We had to work for these.


So you've got your mix tape and you invite your friends over. You announce "Check out this new Naughty By Nature song I recorded from Hot 97," only to press play and hear the worst possible noise. No, I'm not talking about the verse that Vinny raps (that's some Naughty By Nature humor for you). The sound your stereo makes when it eats your tape. The only way to fix it? A pen and tons of patience.


There was once a day where we did not have an "info" button on our remote controls. Instead, we watched the beginning and tried to guess what movie it was. And when we finally realized it was not Major League 2, we would consult our TV Guides. And if we couldn't find it, we would FREAK THE FUCK OUT and blame our siblings for losing it. Yeah, shit was hard back then. And it made us stronger.


Speaking of pay phones...yikes. I don't miss these at all. Kids are lucky they no longer have to rely on owning quarters to make urgent phone calls. Though, they do miss out on freaking out squares by dialing a special number and hanging up twice. Yes, that's how you made pay phones ring on their own. Now you know.


Has there ever been official proof that this even worked? We can all agree that we all looked like idiots treating Excite Bike like a harmonica, right? No big deal. What I wouldn't give to still be huffing that Contra cartridge. Then again, I certainly do not miss that friend who would use his lips while blowing on the game. When he came over, he'd be all "I'll fix this" anytime the game froze, only to mouth-rape Mega Man with every slobbery blow.


To be honest with you, I'd be surprised if kids even knew how to hold pencils. Everything's on their texting machines and porn boxes these days. But years ago, when we wanted to look professional, we wrote in cursive. And when we forgot how to write a lower case "f," we just scribbled a print "f" and connected it to the next letter, praying nobody noticed. It was a way of life.

(See the rest at Funny Or Die)

I can add about 100 to this:

  • Getting up to change the TV channel
  • Making plans around the TV schedule so you wouldn't miss your favorite show. DVR? What's that? VCR? Only rich people had those.
  • Crank-calling people without worrying about getting busted. My friend John and I found a guy in the phone book named Peter Wacker, and we would call him every. single. weekend. to ask if he was whacking his peter.
  • Flipping an LP or cassette to hear Side Two
  • Using a plastic insert to play a 45 on your record player
  • Making appointments to fight after school without fear of getting expelled
  • Having to worry about getting paddled if you got sent to the principal
  • Dodgeball
  • Opening food or medicine without cutting through three layers of security plastic
  • Using white-out
  • Making carbon copies and getting the carbon all over your hands
  • Bottled water = tap water poured into your empty Coke bottle (and it was free)
  • Getting a dime back for every soda bottle you returned to the store
  • Having to make a phone call to get the correct time
  • Playing with unsafe toys that were a lot more fun (lawn darts, pellet guns, etc.)
  • Cars that were made of metal, not plastic
  • Cars that exploded if someone rear-ended you
  • A videogame arcade in every mall
  • A cheese and sausage shop(pe) in every mall. Free samples!
  • An organ store with pushy salesmen in every mall. No, dumbass, I don't want to buy an $800 Hammond organ. I'm only 10!
  • Movies that stayed in theaters longer than a week
  • Real butter on your popcorn

What else?

Before you answer, do me a favor and GET OFF MY LAWN!


  1. -hitting the carriage return on a typewriter to get to the next line

    -talking to a telephone that is connected to the wall by a cord, or that is on a party line

    -using a paper telephone book to look up a phone number

    -turning the crank and adding rock salt around the outside of the bucket to make homemade ice cream

    -riding in a car without a CD player, or a DVD player, or GPS, or automatic windows, or heated seats, or air conditioning, etc.

    -being without internet or videogames to entertain them

    -only 4 channels to watch on TV, and one was PBS (that nobody watched when we were kids)

  2. I used to love making my own cassette tapes. Remember you had to record at the best level which means you had to test the song to see what the loudest part of it was and whether it spiked the meter too high. Ahhh those were the days.

    Also - dial up internet. When I had roommates, only one of us could be online at a time and we soon figured out if we wanted to bump the other guy off, all we had to do was lift and hang up our own phones. Then we would slyly sign on.

  3. My dad was in television, so we DID have a VCR. I was quite popular.
    Rolling down the car window.
    Dialing a phone.
    Baking tiny tiny cakes with a lightbulb. (Yeah, it's a girl thing.)
    Making a Christmas tree by diagonally folding every single page of with an old phonebook, gluing the front and back covers together, and spraypainting it green.
    Playing Name That Tune in the car by punching the different stations on the radio.

  4. And to switch between any of those four channels we got, someone went outside to manually turn the huge aerial antenna out there while the other person inside would yell "Ok!" when the picture came in. And going on vacation meant that my brother and I could slide around all over the back of the station wagon the whole trip. My mom always had the dealership remove the seat belts from every car we ever bought because she hated the way they stuck out of the seats.

  5. - Renting a movie at a video store. I spent 5 years as a young man working for a video store chain. All those hours of arranging VHS tapes on shelves. Who knew the entire industry would be replaced one day with the interwebs and a Redbox on every corner?

  6. Waiting all year for your one chance to watch,"How the Grinch stole Christmas","Merry Christmas Charlie Brown", and "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer".

  7. • Having the 8-Track cassette change tracks right in the middle of Hotel California.

    • Riding in the back of my dads pickup truck ...through town!

    • Going outside to TURN THE TV ANTENNA BY HAND so that the Indianapolis station would come in better.

    • Spending hours decorating the paper insert that your custom mix tape goes in.

    • Answering the phone without knowing who's calling.

    • Watching the teachers bum smokes off of the "bad kids" outside during lunch break.

    • Having to wait until Saturday morning to watch cartoons.

  8. Waiting like 3 to 5 minutes to get the TV started. You turned it on, then came the sound and then a slightly crooked image appeared. If after 2 min of sound the image didn't appear, you knew you were screwed until the family could afford a repair or a new set.

  9. • Calling your local radio station to request a song for a girl.

    • Local late night horror show hosts. (Sammy Terry, Baron Von Wolfstiein)

    • ...when Trans Am, Mustang, and Camaro were badass.

  10. Sniffing mimeo paper at school. What a rush!

  11. * If the president was on TV your night was OVER.

    * You knew that when Soul Train came on TV on Saturdays, there were no more cartoons.

    * Having to use pliers to change the channel when the knob inevitably broke.

  12. Encyclopedias. Does anyone use those anymore? We had a (nearly) complete set of Funk & Wagnall's, bought one at a time at the grocery store, I think.

    I do loves me some Google though.

  13. Making a call using a dial phone.

    Playing outside until the street lights came on.

    Putting playing cards on your bike, so the spokes made a lawnmower noise.

    Cherry bombs.

    The phrase "I wonder how to . . . "

  14. Rotary dials on phones and TVs. (we have old versions of both in my attic and my nephew had no idea what they did.)

    Listening to an entire album to hear the one song you actually loved.

    Playing dodgeball in gym class. (and really waling on the "chubby kid" as much as you could.)

    Soda and junk food made with sugar and actual ingredients, NOT corn syrup and nineteen word long chemical formulas.

  15. Axl - Or "I'm Your Captain/Closer To Home" by Grand Funk Railroad. I think the 8-track changed TWICE during that 10+ minute monster. Great song, though.

    So true about Soul Train. TV goes off, you go outside.

    RemarkableMonkey - we had Encyclopedia Britannica that my dad found at some salvage store. I hated using them for school because the type was TINY and you almost needed another encyclopedia to understand the entries.

    Apache - plies for the channels and a coathanger for an antenna.

    One I forgot... hearing actual music on AM radio, not endless talk. And good music, too.

  16. Riding my bike all the way across town to go to the public pool... every day.

    Sliding the foil up and down on the wire trying to get HBO to come in better.

    Playing kissing tag at recess. (Not that I would want my daughters to experience this ha)

    Actually, my daughter just told me yesterday that she wanted to make a mix tape. I was so excited that I'm going to try and get my dual cassette play working... wait, do they even sell blank cassette tapes anymore? :/ Every kid should know how to do this... it should be a law.

  17. ~ Having to actually go to the library when you have to look something up you don't know.

    ~ Having a choice of 3 channels on TV and if you were lucky also getting a public TV station.

    ~ Writing real letters.

    ~ Not having to have your candy x-rayed at Halloween.

    ~ No safety seals on bottles of otc drugs.

  18. Using your families encyclopedias to do homework

  19. An organ store with pushy salesmen in every mall. No, dumbass, I don't want to buy an $800 Hammond organ. I'm only 10!

    Sadly Cary you misunderstood the man, his name was Hammond, and he was offering you a different organ than you thought.

    Although the $800 price tag does give me pause. Is he THAT good, or is the area you grew up in that starved for "product" that he can pretty much name his own price?

  20. Going along with Cam's listening to the whole album just for the one song you really wanted to hear, I would also add having the order of the songs on an album memorized so that you always knew what the next song up was going to be. The album covers quite often had all the lyrics printed on them too. The album taken as a whole was an entire experience that kids today don't really understand. It was a body of work from a particular musician or band that conveyed a mood as a whole. It was much different than picking and choosing and downloading single cuts for your ipod.

  21. Burning about on bikes to the bush and to the river for fishing for hours and hours out of ken of the olds - many kids now aren't even allowed to walk around the block to school it seems, what with 20 paedophiles per block minimum apparently and cars sometimes passing metres away from where they are walking.

    Not wearing shoes, including to school.

    Then again, this household has a turntable and a VCR and they get used. M at the age of nearly 10 understands that dancing too near the turntable to one of her Mum's 30-odd Bowie albums or one of my many classics is fraught.

    Add another thing missing from the empty lives of today's youth: understanding what it means when told their insistent repetitive demands sound like a scratched record. My brother would say this to his kids, until they said 'Dad, what does a scratched record sound like'.

    A salvaged old dial phone arrived in the household last week too (I am a nostalgic type). It can't be plugged in without more wiring, but M spent ages playing with it, fascinated by ratchet-y return noise after dialing a number.

  22. Daisy: I miss when album art mattered.

  23. Bludger said...

    A salvaged old dial phone arrived in the household last week too (I am a nostalgic type). It can't be plugged in without more wiring, but M spent ages playing with it, fascinated by ratchet-y return noise after dialing a number.

    I am just old enough to know that noise is the worst sound to hear when you miss-dialed a phone number. Only time an adult would reliably swear in front of little kids was when that happened.

  24. Was coming in here to mention the broken record thing.

    Remember when MTV played music videos? I wouldn't know cause we didn't have cable when I was a kid.

    Riding bikes without helmets.

    Going to the local park or other small field trips in school without parents having to sign 10000 papers and liability waivers and stuff.

    The annual run of Blues Brothers on network TV. We didn't have a VCR so this was a family night activity.

    Riding in the back of a pickup or a station wagon.

    Finding cool toys in the bottom of cereal boxes. Cracker Jack used to also have actual cool toys inside.

    Dewey decimal system.

    Be kind, rewind.


    Mail ordering shit from the back of Popular Science and Boys Life magazines. Sea Monkeys, X ray glasses, stuff like that.

  25. Making "fashionable" jewelry out of coke can tabs.

    Getting kicked out of the family room whenever a program with "Parental Guidance Suggested" came on.

    Riding to school in an earwax gold El Camino with a black vinyl top. Wait, I don't wish that on anyone else.

    Fighting your siblings for first go at the Sears Christmas Wish Book.

    Walking 5 miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways, in south Alabama.

  26. Axl, yes, I miss the album cover art too.

  27. Finding a semi-comfortable location and position to have a semi-private phone conversation, limited by the length of the phone cord that tethered you to the wall. And having a defense strategy in mind for the inevitable sibling invasion.

    Using...and folding...a map

    Making a racecar out of a fridge box and a couple skateboards and some rope you found laying around in the garage, and playing with it for hours, towing it behind your bike...

    Going someplace with friends and knowing you had to "check in" at a certain time or be home by dark, because Mom and Dad didn't have any way of getting hold of you...

    Cruising Main for hours on a Friday night because there was nothing else to do...

    The awful sound of a dot matrix printer...

  28. In the summer, we would get kicked out the door and told to be home by dinner (different than being home when the street lights came on). We didn't have "planned activities", we made our own.

    As we got older that involved some stuff we shouldn't have done hahaha.

    I had a Led Zeppelin 8 track - would always do that big clunky switch during D'yer Maker.

    Mimeograph tests.. we would get them when they were still damp mmmm.

    Also, not having an answering machine. If you weren't home.. too bad.

  29. andrea--Yes, when I went on field trips in elementary school, my mom only had to sign one form.

    Answering machines with the miniature cassette tapes

    Elementary school classroom parties for holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Valentine's Day (I understand these are pretty much banned now and feel sorry for my potential future children)

    Getting kicked off the Internet because the phone rang

    Watching VHS tapes

    Those giant VHS video cameras (My mom and grandma used one to tape me unwrapping my Christmas presents every year)

    New releases of hand-drawn animated movies like "The Swan Princess," "Mulan," "Anastasia," and "The Lion King" (The current computer animated trend makes me sad)

    Circling everything you want in the massive JCPenney Christmas catalog

    Having to wait a year before a movie is available to own

  30. Oh yes, and cassette tapes. My grandma had this awesome stereo system. There were buttons you could push to make the tape speed up and sound like the Chipmunks. I had tape recorders and would record myself reading or making up stories. I also had the read-along tape and book to pretty much every Disney movie ever

  31. RGR: I was just thinking about the Sears Wish Book. We'd get the Sears, JCPenny, and Spiegel Christmas catalogs in September and they'd be dog-eared before Halloween. I remember the page of trashy basement bar crap. Like the go-go girl (barbie sized) that would mix your drinks for you, or the old man and woman face things you'd stick to your wall which would grind their faces around when you pulled the tie or some such nonsense.

    My kids will never have that.

  32. We loved getting the JCPenney catalog. I always looked for the drum set--they rarely had more than one--and my sister always looked for the pic of the guy on the men's underwear page with his wang hanging out.

  33. THAT WAS YOU!? I've finally found you, you little creep.



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